We are all aware of the difficulties faced by young people in terms of both independent accommodation and work opportunities. Affordable housing is vital as are work opportunities that are diverse, fulfilling, stimulating, and fairly paid. These are “big” issues that need input from a variety of bodies both within and beyond our town. But there are important “smaller” issues too, and in the Town Council’s view one of those is to ensure that young people feel valued; that their opinions are heard and respected; that they have a say in things.
The Town Council recently commissioned 8 weeks of detached youth work from South Shropshire Youth Forum. Two workers met up with groups of young people in various parts of town. A couple of councillors were invited down to a few sessions to hear what concerns were being expressed. The main theme was the need to refurbish the skate park. One of the councillors submitted a note to the Council meeting and the Council generously pledged £6000 towards the construction, delivery and installation of a 12 person shelter for the park. The shelter will cost £7200, so the balance will be raised by donations and grants (£600), and projects that the young people come up with themselves to generate the rest of the money (£600 again).
Alongside this, Liz Still, the SPARC theatre space manager, has secured a grant to set up a music and performance project based in the UNDERGROUND and SPARC to play music and perform together. The first session took place at SPARC the last weekend of June. We know that mental wellbeing has been an issue for all age groups because of the restrictions the pandemic has imposed, but young people’s mental health in particular has been severely tested, and this project can hopefully offer a sense of reconnection. But the project also focusses on non musical creativity, so there will be a poetry slam workshop for ages 7 -adult, as well as circus skills workshops. The belief underpinning all these activities is that if we can help young people to feel truly valued by the town, there will be a greater likelihood that they will want to stay, or return after a period of study away.
So things are beginning to happen that centre on the needs and aspirations of younger members of the town and its surroundings. But this has to be the beginning. If we are really committed to listening to those needs and aspirations, we need a sustainable and long-term strategy created with (rather than for) that group. For that reason, the Town Council has agreed to explore the possibility of a Youth Forum, with direct input into the Town Council. The Council has asked two councillors (Councillors Dicken and Stelman) to lead on this. We need to find a way of ensuring that the youth’s voices are heard and taken seriously in Council meetings and, above all, we need to recognise that gaining young people’s trust is a long term process. We hope that as parents and carers you would support this initiative and even consider participating in it where possible. If you would like to discuss this further please do not hesitate to contact either of us.
Councillor Josh Dicken (tel: 07530 691106. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Councillor Andy Stelman (tel: 07773 006413 Email: email@example.com)